Sometimes it's glaringly clear to me that I'm a small-town girl from Iowa.
Like when any non-Midwesterner laughs at me for calling soda “pop.” Or when, in a bigger city, I attempt to smile at a passerby only to get either a) the head-down, averted-eyes reaction or b) the “What're you looking at?” furrowed brow.
But my biggest “Whoa, I really am Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm!” realization took place during my first few days in London, when, as a college junior, I spent a semester studying abroad. From serious street-crossing confusion to trying to figure out their coins to getting scolded for calling my jeans “pants” instead of trousers”...I just didn't fit in at the beginning.
Which wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that it felt like all the rest of the study abroad students came more prepared than me! Seemed like they'd all packed knowing black is the color in London. In contrast, yeah, pretty sure Rainbow Brite would've approved of my suitcase contents. Others were already throwing around British words like “knackered” and “rubbish.” And was I seriously the only one to halfway hyperventilate when I realized I'd need to master the Underground system?
I felt so...behind.
Many writers, I'm sure, understand that feeling. How easy it is to look at other writers around us and think, “I'm the tortoise, they're the hare and, forget Aesop, the hare is totally gonna win!” We look at the authors who snagged an agent years ago or the ones who seem to have all the connections or, sheesh, how about the ones with the already-recognizable names...and we (okay, I) feel like a cloddish Clydesdale plodding in the dusty wake of a hundred wild stallions.
It's a discouraging feeling, yes.
Can you think of a single Biblical hero or heroine who started out “ahead of the game?” Go ahead, think about it. We've got...
...Noah: a laughingstock among his peers
...Moses: not all that great of a public speaker
...Esther: both parents dead
...David: lowly shepherd
...Joseph: despised by his brother, accused of crimes he didn't commit
...Mary: practically a child, reputation soiled by her pregnancy
...Matthew: not-so-popular tax collector
...Peter: brash and mouthy
...Paul: a murderer of Christians
That list barely scratches the surface of the flawed, “back of the pack” people God chose to work through in Biblical times. And you know what, he'll do the same today through us writers...no matter how far behind we might feel, no matter how we might compare ourselves to others.
It's the simple, crazy truth that God, in his perfect time, is more than capable of giving a great, big push to the ones who need it most.
So whatever finish line you're reaching for – a finished manuscript, interested agent or editor, published book – hang in there. If you're feeling "behind," just remember you're in good company! Besides, if I can learn to say "trousers," anything's possible, right? :)